BJP MP Tejasvi Surya (Photo Courtesy: social media)

Modi government requests Twitter to withhold Tejasvi Surya’s ‘Terror and Islam’ tweet

Modi-led BJP government has asked Twitter to remove one of the BJP MP Tejasvi Surya’s tweet which he posted in 2015 about linking Islam with Terrorism, a report in The Wire said.

“In short: true, terror has no religion. But the terrorist definitely has a religion, and in most cases it’s Islam”, Surya’s 2015 tweet read.

Surya’s tweet has now been withheld in India but can be accessed in other countries.

The original tweet by Tejasvi Surya on Islam (left). How the tweet currently looks now after being taken down in response to a legal demand (right)

India’s Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology (MEITY) had reportedly sent a notice to Twitter on April 28 to take down the tweet.

Further, Twitter reached out to Lumen, its third-party database that published content removal request by May 3.

The notice circulated claims that the IT ministry cited Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 to order Twitter to remove the offending tweet.

Section 69A provides for blocking public access to information when the “the Central Government or any of its officer specially authorised by it in this behalf is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense relating to above.”

Most of the content withheld from viewing in India by Twitter contains a statement that can cause a disturbance between religious groups.

According to the report in The Wire, most of the removed tweets were posted by the ‘right-wing’ accounts that have a large number of followers.

Other tweets that were taken down by Twitter appear to be inflammatory Islamist content put out by accounts that basically talk about pro-Pakistan causes.

IT ministry has been regularly asking Twitter to delete tweets mostly with regard to Kashmir-centric content that law enforcement authorities deem dangerous and unlawful, the report said.

“We… clearly indicate within the product when content has been withheld and publish requests to withhold content on Lumen—unless, similar to our practice of notifying account holders, we are prohibited from doing so,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Wire.

According to The Wire, the content has been removed only for Indian users and can still be viewed by people outside the country. At least 15 of the tweets , however, appear to have been deleted by the user or are otherwise ‘unavailable’.

The removed tweets are replaced by a message which says, “This tweet from ___ has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand.”

Some of the tweets that were listed for removal include Islamophobic content by Hindutva-oriented accounts.

Among the 130 tweets 60% are Islamophobic and the rest can be defined as Islamist, Anti-Hindu or involves alarming political rhetoric regarding Muslims in India, The Wire stated.

The list of a few tweets that have been withheld are as follows:

  1. By Shefali Vaidya, she has over 470,000 followers, her tweet was about COVID-19 related controversies involving Tablighi Jamaat.
The original tweet by Shefali Vaidya (left). How the tweet currently looks now after being taken down in response to a legal demand (right)

2. By former CJI Ranjan Gogoi parody account, his tweet was also about Muslims and Tablighi Jamaat.

The original tweet by parody Ranjan Gogoi account (left). How the tweet currently looks now after being taken down in response to a legal demand (right)

3. Anti-Muslim tweet was posted by an account with over 50,000 followers

Photo Courtesy: social media

4. A post which has communal overtones was uploaded by an account with 5,000 followers.

Photo Courtesy: social media

5. Anti-Hindu content that has been withheld by Twitter

Photo Courtesy: social media

7. A tweet with an anti-RSS hashtag

Photo Courtesy: social media

8. A post with hashtag in Hindi encouraging a boycott of Muslim traders.

Photo Courtesy: social media

The notice on Lumen indicates that Twitter’s action on the request was ‘partial’, as the responses on the removed tweets are still showing, The Wire said.

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